I have not written in a while because I have continued to be plagued by this infection. After only a few days of healing, the infection returned. I began retaking the antibiotics but they made me feel worse. I have since started daily injections of antibiotics. I am frustrated and longing to just be back in the states where I know I can resolve this problem with hot water, American doctors, and air conditioning. At the same time, as a missionary, I feel obligated to stay and resolve things the Dominican way (though keeping my health and safety as number 1 priority). As I learned in social work, sometimes you have to trust the process. The doctor here and all the Dominicans say it is not a big deal. I am lucky enough to be able to afford the doctors and treatment, unlike most Dominicans who just suffer for months.
Monday nights I attend a bible study with other missionary women here in Santiago. It is my weekly break from the Spanish language and time for me. We are studying the book of James, which seems appropriate for 20 something missionaries to study. This past week, we looked at James 1:2 (Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,). We talked about the word joy. Someone commented that Joy is a fruit of the spirit and only through the spirit can we truly have joy. I have been frustrated and worn down the past few weeks but this week, I decided this week to be joyful, even in the trails. It has made all the difference in my attitude.
Yesterday was particularly a joyful day. Hermana Estella went out with us to Cuesta Arena to see the school. She had not been able to attend since the opening day of the school. The last thing she saw was a building and property sufficient for opening and 20 children screaming because they had never been away from their parents. Yesterday was worlds different. The children lined up and raised the flag and their parents proudly sang the national anthem. Estella provided the opening prayer and then all of the children ran excitedly into the building, most without their parents. They all sat down for circle time and happily sang the song they have learned over the past month. They then recited individually the bible verse they are learning this week, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Estella had some clothing that had been donated by missionaries so we walked the community and visited with different people and dispersed the clothing, praying with each family. Each family talked about how great the school was and what a blessing it was to have in their community, even if they did not have any of their children in the school.
At the end of the day, we took a trip to a neighboring community to see a mission site. I had been before but I wanted the teacher and Estella to see the site. I remembered it being the concrete version of my dreams for Cuesta Arena. In the end, the trip proved more important for me to see than anyone else. I have struggled with money since we started this mission. I have always thought, if we had more money, we could do this and that and complete it faster (all American thought I might add). I even spent months searching for help in larger organizations that are already in the country to see if they would take on our community. Don’t get me wrong, we have been blessed beyond belief and money always seems sufficient, even when we thought we didn’t have enough. I just knew they had more experience and resources than I could ever have.
Yesterday, we went to a site that is feeding 80 children a day! Those are amazing numbers and I was in awe of their building and their facilities. When we sat down with the pastor of the project, we heard his story. He is a son of two alcoholic parents and no one in his family was Christian. By the standards of this world, he has no reason to be in the position he is in, let alone be a Christian. He says the only reason his life is the way it is, is because when he was little he attended a Christian school. The answer, Christ and education. Only through education and faith can someone rise up from their circumstances and change their life. Though the program feeds 80 children a day, it is having little positive impact on its community. The community now feels like they are entitled to food every day, and instead of spending money on food and the day cooking, they fill the day with unproductive and sometimes dangerous activities. The community now says that the “gringos” pay for their food so they shouldn’t have to. They expect it and no longer see it as a blessing. If the organization were to ever leave the community, the community would be in great danger and worse off than when the organization arrived. The funny thing is the organization is located directly next to a public school. They have a huge resource sitting next to them that is not being tapped into. I am not trying to bad talk an organization but it showed me that even with all the resources in the world, without relationships and knowledge of the needs of the community, money does more harm than good. Americans so often want to give money and nothing else. They want the cheaper solution and the more instant “impact.” They don’t want to spend years developing relationships and money on non-material things such as education.
When we first started, we made many mistakes, and we will continue to make more I’m sure. We saw needs and wanted to help but luckily we did not have the money to come in build a lavish building and begin projects and programming. We had little money but huge hearts. So we walked and talked and prayed with people in the community. Though we thought water was the upmost important we learned later that education was more valuable. We have seen so many changes in Cuesta Arena in only one month! The children are excited to learn, but more importantly they are taking what they are learning home to their parents. We have been able to discuss protecting their children from abuse, address issues of violence, and even education on gun safety. All issues we would have never been able to address without the presence of the school! Education and God’s love do not need millions of dollars to share. God does have perfect timing! We had to start our programming with the school. Education is the key to change. It is what Jesus spent his ministry trying to accomplish…with little to no money at His dispense. God is good and will provide what the community needs. How important it is to listen before we act!